|Ultimately, it is the people who
make a place what it is, and the Thais are not only
they are also fun-loving. This is readily seen in the number of annual
festivals, both national and regional. Some celebrations are Buddhist and
some are secular, but all are joyous, colourful occasions and typically
comprise parades with fabulously decorated floats combined with music,
dancing, and the fun of the fair.
Festivals are an essential part of Thai life and as such offer the visitor a valuable opportunity not only for having fun, but also for gaining an insight into various aspects of Thai culture. This is especially true in the rural areas where the year is still dictated by the agricultural cycle and times of toil are punctuated by seasonal festivals that serve as both holidays and propitious occasions.
Many festivals follow the lunar calendar and are thus moveable feasts, while others have set annual dates. There are, however, so many throughout the year that whenever you arrive in Thailand you can be pretty sure of being in time for one special occasion or another.
Of the national events, Songkran, the traditional Thai New Year on April 13th, and Loy Krathong, on the night of the full moon in November, are the most famous. The former, these days most riotously celebrated in Chiang Mai, is a boisterous affair in which water is splashed over one and all. It is symbolic of cleansing, though most youngsters see it as just good fun.
Loy Krathong, by contrast, is a quieter more romantic event in which homage is paid to the Mother of Waters. All over the country, people gather at rivers, ponds, and lakes under the moonlight to float krathongs, small lotus-shaped offerings containing incense, a candle and a coin. It is a moving and magical sight.
Of regional celebrations, perhaps most spectacular is the Yasothon Rocket Festival held in the Northeast in May. At this time, huge home-made rockets are fired into the air as an invocation for rain, the timely arrival of the monsoon being crucial for the rice harvest. Whether the rockets actually encourage the rain or not, no one in Yasothon misses this occasion for having a wild, joyous time before the arduous work of another agricultural season begins.
Other events, like the Ploughing Festival held in Bangkok to predict the year's rice harvest, or the Elephant Round-Up in Surin, offer priceless insights into the traditions, rites and pageants that have for long regulated the lives of the people.
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